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     Volume 6 Issue 17 | May 4, 2007 |

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View from the Bottom

My Sister was Killed for Dowry

Shahnoor Wahid

Hel..looooo…people…anybody listening? Somebody?… will you please take your eyes and ears off whatever you are doing in your comfortable Secretariat office or political party office or NGO office or law chamber or police headquarter office…may I draw your kind attention to a news item…on a young girl in Kamrangirchar killed by her young husband for dowry?

It happened last week. I know you do not have all the time in the world…I know you did not feel like reading the full story…I know the girl was not your sister or your daughter…yes, she was some poor girl in some poor village far away from the residential areas where you live. Yes, you are right…don't many such girls die every year for dowry? Yes…yes… what's the big deal really? What's so special about it? No, no…nothing is special…she was a very ordinary girl…no one will remember her after one month. Even the parents will forget her after six months. They are poor people and they have to get busy searching for food on a daily basis. One daughter is too many, actually. It was her fate, what else?

But I am disturbed. I am angry. I am mourning the brutal murder of that girl in Kamrangirchar because that girl was my sister, because that girl was my daughter. To me her life was important…valuable…priceless. That young girl had dreams. She grew up with the notion that marriage helps materialise many dreams of girls. She used to watch happy, young couples going to enjoy a cinema or visit a village fair and wonder when she would get married and enjoy the same things. She had dreams of having a small family of her own someday and seeing her children play and grow up under her care. She had dreams of going to places and seeing the world. She had dreams of eating better food and wearing good clothes and beautiful ornaments. But her life, her dreams were cut short by the man who had given her false hopes of materialising her dreams.

There has to be an end to such crime. No such stories are ever found in civilised societies. Are we civilised? Are we a society inhabited by brutes? Are we a community of killers? If not then why are we so insensitive to the killings of young women for dowry? Why do we see so little commotion over such deaths while we make huge stories out of a single political killing? Is it because political killings are glamorous and make better headlines? Is it because behind every political death there is the prospect of some political gain? So, we make discrimination between deaths, consciously or unconsciously, and never think twice about it. And we only hear about the deaths. Do we care to know how many girls have been tortured and sent back to their parents' house for failing to pay the dowry? The number would run into hundred thousands.

Shall we do something about the dowry related torture and killing? Shall we generate a movement? Shall we, the journalistic community, do something about it…something like the anti-acid throwing movement? Shall we request the print and electronic media to devote some space to disseminate anti-dowry messages? Shall we prepare a one-page 'pledge-points' that every bridegroom and his parents will have to sign in the Kazi's office before getting the marriage certificate?

I am sure if the journalistic community gets together on this single point and takes the leadership in organising a social movement, we may ultimately achieve the objective of ensuring that not a single woman or girl dies because of dowry. We have to tag along the local police officials, uno, social welfare officials, political leaders, teachers, anti-corruption officials and local religious leaders in this battle against this social evil. Dowry is one form of chandabazi and it must come under the drive against corruption. Send some killers to the gallows and you will see a great social reform taking effect. I appeal to the young journalists to take the initiative.

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